Help with lighting in room with off-white walls?

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    • #44480

      Beginner here so go easy on me. I have a 12’x12.5′ room and will be using it to shoot basically talking head for instructional videos for online viewing, or on the computer, but not DVD. The walls in the room are not white, they’re kind of a creamish color. I took a photo of the wall with a piece of white paper against it so you can see:

      As for lights, I have two of these (although I’m not sure of the wattage)

      and two of these:

      I also have an 8.5″ clamp light like above, with a halogen bulb, and dimmer for a back light.

      What would be the best way to utilize what I have in this room in order to light the subject for talking head instructional video? Or, what should I GET in order to properly light the subject (what kind of bulbs, wattage, etc?) and how to deal with the not-white colored walls/ceiling?

    • #186266

      Oops, I think I posted this topic in the wrong forum.. Can a moderator move this for me?

    • #186267

      With that many lights at your disposal, the normal setup is to use a “key” or main light on the subject, just offset to one side…a “Fill” light on the opposite side and a “Back” light usually behind and above,pointed down atthe subject to help seperatde them from the background and give the back of their head some highlights. However, in a room that size, you can probably get away with bouncing the main lights off the ceiling and/or walls, but still use the back light as per above. My main concern with off-white walls would be the background. I like to place a plant in a corner or some art work/posters on the walls, perhaps a prop that pertains to the subject being discussed. You can also “paint” the background with coloured light or shadow/pattern light to give some detail. I always try to do something to prevent having just a plain white wall as a background.

    • #186268

      Have you considered using a green screen? You can buy the material for cheap and the results – if properly lit – are professional quality. Not only can you then make the background whatever color you like, you can layer your titles in a way that would look like it was produced by an expensive company.

    • #186269

      any value to painting the walls black, so you eliminate reflected light?

    • #186270

      depends on how you light and the size of the space… I have a small space in my basement painted black, and it works great especially with the low ceiling… I only get light where I put it.. Then I have a bigger space in my garage that is white.. again, I have to use gobo’s or flags and other light modifiers to get the light where I want it but it works…

    • #186271

      this image (still shot, but the lighting is the same for video) was shot in a white studio…

      with careful lighting white can be any color and any tone…

    • #186272


      Yeah, those are Halogen work lights. They aren’t rated for video/film work so you’ll have to make some in-camera manual picture adjustments (if you’re able) and do an accurate whitebalance to get a good balance of color and tone in your scene. They are workhorses for the indie (i.e. don’t have the cash for real lights) filmmakers however, so they can be used.

      First off, Diffusion Material and wooden clothespins. Go to your local crafts store and get white, cream and gold vellum paper (like they use in wedding invites.) Halogen lamps get really hot and the vellum unlike other paper won’t burst into flame. Use wooden clothespins to secure the vellum over the front of the lamp (for God’s sake, leave the protective screen on!) The vellum will cut down on the harshness of the light and spare your talent the glare and much of the heat. The more sheets you use, the softer the light will be.

      Second, get a 36×24″ white foamcore board. Paint one side flat black. When you use your lamp covered with the diffusion material, you can use your foamcore board as a bounce card (white side) to fill in the shadows on the talents face or use the black side to block unwanted reflected light.

      Third, move your talent far from the walls as you can. So even if you don’t have a backdrop, you won’t throw hard shadows of your talent or get unwanted reflections and hotspots on those white walls. Also You may want to forgo a mediu-wide shot to establish your scene and start with a medium shot then stick with MCU’s or close-ups when your talent is speaking. That will help take emphasis off those walls. Having your talent farther way from the walls will also give you opportunities to purposely use shadows to add depth to the background.

    • #186273

      what i’m ending up doing is covering the inside of my entire studio ( with ceiling tile which will be painted over with a light coat of flat black paint to kill the vast majority of reflected light, then i can create what i want.

      if i need a colored wall section, i’ll build one and put it on rollers. otherwise, i’ll green screen it.

      but i think i’m ahead of the game if what i start with is total dead space… dead to light and sound. it’s very exciting to be working on finishing :).

    • #186274

      You’ve got enough light here to cook meat! Don’t paint, don’t deaden, don’t green screen. At least not for a while. Instead, set up your camera and begin looking through the view finder to see how your talent looks.

      Wayne said it all, above. Remember three point lighting, for a start. As suggested, try bouncing light from the scoop reflector — I’d use a 200w or 400w photo flood, the kind used for portrait work — off a piece of foam core; maybe even off the gold colored wall you have now. Odds are that that will provide soft key light, with the bounce off the opposite wall providing fill.

      Get some black wrap — it’s like aluminum foil, only black — and make a tube to mask down the flood from your second scoop. Use that, very subtle here, as highlight on hair and shoulders.

      Think of the lighting as highlight side, shadow side and rim around the shoulders.

      The key to this, though, is what you see in the view finder. That’s where you compose the light and determine how much you need. Less is better. Today’s cameras don’t require a great deal of light to produce a very pleasing image.

      Use your camera’s iris, too. Experiment with it to get the most pleasing balance of light and shadow. You should be able to see detail in the blacks, with no clipping (over exposure, white patches with no detail) in the whites. Move your lights around to get the best results.

      And be absolutely sure to white balance before you begin shooting.

      Good luck.


    • #186275

      Hi I’m back! Well I went back to home depot and I bought the lights that are recommended for these clamp lights:

      They are 300 watts and put out 4170 lumens!

      I have two of these suckers and they light up the room like Yankee stadium! I put a piece of parchment paper over each of them on the clamp lights, then an extra piece over one of them because it was too much light actually. I could never get key and fill to work, so I just filled the room with even light and it looks fine now I guess. I see all these tutorial videos with key and fill and when you actually go to do it, it doesn’t work, maybe it’s the space I have to work with, can’t position lights where they need to go. So now I have no shadows whatsoever on the talent and that makes the most sense to me, why would I want shadows? This isn’t a drama, it’s more like watching the news…

      Oh by the way, you were asking about the background? It’s a black cloth, with a banner on it behind the talent.

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